WALDO – The fire station in Waldo might see some change, but the residents probably won’t notice anything different about the service.

Alachua County, which took over the fire department for the City of Waldo two years ago, will be building a new fire station in town.

“The fire department went to the county about two years ago because we could no longer afford it,” said Kim Worley, Waldo’s city manager.

The city is still working out the deal, but is already in the process of selecting the land and getting it surveyed. The station will be moving from its current 14380 Earle St. location, and the new location will be at the corner of U.S. Highway 301 and N.E. 144th Ave. at the bottom of Cole Street.

The land will be donated to the City of Waldo, which they will then donate to the county to build the new station. Waldo will also be able to keep the building that the fire department is currently housed in as a part of the deal. The new land is 5.9 acres and valued about at $32,400, Worley said. However, the city will get it for free.

“We will be paying for the survey, the title search and then our attorney will draw up a contract once we have a legal description of the property,” Worley said.

Residents in Waldo may be anxious about this change, but they can be assured it will not mean a changeover in staff or loss of jobs.

“If anything, the station will be larger so they could add additional staffing,” Worley said. “Otherwise it is all the same, just a new location,”

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HIGH SPRINGS – Incumbent Mayor Sue Weller and challenger Bobby Summers will both be vying for High Springs City Commission seat 3 at the Nov. 5, 2013 election.

Summers, 74, says he has been a High Springs resident all his life. “Our family has been part of High Springs since before 1900,” he said in a recent interview. “I am running as a native. I have had experience. My father was the last city judge High Springs had. My grandfather was a school board trustee. I have been a commissioner and mayor here and a county commissioner. It [public service] runs in the family.”

By way of explaining why he chose to run at this time, Summers said, “High Springs is in turmoil…or has been. We need to do something about that. We need to get some honesty and integrity on the commission,” he said.

“As a county commissioner, I was able to lower the millage rate. As a city commissioner, we were able to keep the millage rate at the same level. I am definitely not in favor of increasing the millage,” he said. “Everybody is having tough times right now and we need to build our reserves back up. We’ve got a sewer system that is way too expensive. We can’t keep pumping money into it. We have to cut back and wait for growth to catch up,” he said.

“I am running as myself, but not against Mayor Weller,” he commented. “I have no bone to pick with her.” “She is from Miami and has some South Florida ideas. I don’t think High Springs is quite ready for her,” he said.

“We need to stimulate economic development in High Springs, which will broaden our tax base. Ms. Weller said she would do that when she ran. So far, she has not,” he said.

Summers is owner of Summers Realty, Inc., but says he is a tree farmer now. “I have been in the farm supply business, I have had a trucking business and served in the U.S. Navy,” he said. “I understand what business owners have to face and increasing the millage rate is not what we should be doing now.”

Weller, 62, has been a resident of High Springs since 2004. She is currently in her first three-year term as commissioner and was elected to serve as mayor for the current fiscal year. She formally announced her candidacy during a city commission meeting in April.

The city went through a difficult time in 2012, Weller said. “I am running again to help the city move forward. This last seven months, we have turned a corner. We have had to set the groundwork by working on our image. Before we could expect economic development, we had to start working together as a team and change our image of constant bickering, undoing and redoing items which we had already voted on,” she said.

“I recently looked at our voting record for the past seven months on substantive issues that have come before us as a commission. I was impressed to see that 88 percent of our votes have been unanimous on those substantive issues. The realization that the commission is working together, as I had hoped we would when I joined the commission, puts the City of High Springs on track to start enticing businesses and people into our town instead of reading about bickering and infighting in our city government,” she said.

“The city, through funds from the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and a matching $500 grant from Visit Gainesville, has begun the economic development process with a full page advertisement on the beauty and diversity of our city in the July/August 2013 issue of Florida Travel + Lifestyle Magazine. High Springs was also featured in a two-page article in U.S. Airways Magazine on the beauty and natural wonders of High Springs. We now have a plan of action to begin to attract people to visit High Springs and see what a wonderful place it is,” she said. “I want to continue to help High Springs move in this positive direction.”

When asked about the millage rate, the rate of taxation on property values, Weller explained, “Our city manager has just presented a budget for the upcoming year that works within our current millage rate of 6.15 mills, and also includes some of the items the commission asked him to provide for such as a recreation department. It appears there is no need to raise the millage rate, which is why I voted not to do so at the July 25, 2013, commission meeting.

“No one wants to raise taxes or fees. We all live here too. To the extent to which we can operate within our current fees and taxes, we should do so and look for ways to save the city money at the same time,” said Weller.

“However, it costs money to meet the desires of our citizens. An integral part of our duties as representatives of our citizens is to look for ways in which we can obtain the money to best meet their needs and services. There are many ways to do that. Increasing the millage rate is only one way. Our responsibility as elected officials is to look at all of the ways we can meet our citizens’ needs and choose the best method for all concerned.”

Weller has served on the city commission and as mayor of High Springs. As such, she also serves on the CRA. Locally she has also served on the High Springs Planning and Historic Board and on the Task Force for Economic Development.

Previously, she worked for the City of Miami for 24 years in labor relations, the last 12 of those years as the Labor Relations Officer. She served as the city’s representative on both of the city’s employee pension boards as a management representative. She has been a member of the Florida Public Employer Labor Relations Association since 1978 and is past president. She served as Executive Director for eight years following her retirement from the City of Miami and is also the past president of the National Florida Public Employer Labor Relations Association.

Asked why she moved to High Springs, she said both she and her husband wanted to get away from the big city.

“We had certain requirements for a place to live. High Springs fit that bill perfectly,” she said. “We love it here and can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

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ALACHUA – For the third time this year, the University of Florida Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator, located in Alachua, received top marks as an incubator. Sweden-based research group University Business Index (UBI) ranked the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator as the “World’s Best University Biotechnology Incubator” based on numerous criteria.

Conducted by UBI for the first time, the report was based on an extensive international study and analysis of 150 incubators across 22 countries.

“Being recognized as world’s top biotech incubator is especially gratifying because UBI’s rankings are data-driven,” said incubator director Patti Breedlove.

The assessment reviewed three general areas for each incubator including value for the “ecosystem” in which it operates, value for the client startups and attractiveness.

Within that framework, UBI assessed more than 50 performance indicators including economy enhancement, talent retention, access to funding, post-incubation relationships and internal environment.

“They asked for more information than I’ve ever been asked in a statistical ranking survey,” said Breedlove, noting how extensive the review was.

According to a University of Florida review of the full UBI assessment, the report found that European incubators perform substantially lower than U.S. programs, despite spending more on operations and client seed funding.

The report also reveals that European incubators provide their clients nine times as much seed funding but create 1.9 times fewer jobs and 2.8 times lower revenue per client per year.

Top incubators, like UF Sid Martin Biotech, create 2.8 times more jobs than the global average, according to the study.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the talented team at the Sid Martin Biotech Incubator. With their help, UF is producing an outstanding crop of bioscience companies,” said David L. Day, director of UF’s Office of Technology Licensing.

Breedlove also credits her team saying, “The group we have here is the best we’ve ever had,” said Breedlove. “They take a lot of pride in watching the companies grow and succeed.”

The Texas-based Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship was named top global incubator overall. Other top incubators by sector were Ireland’s NDR Launchpad (information technology), and New York’s UB Technology (life sciences).

The Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator was ranked by National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) as the 2013 Incubator of the Year. NBIA also ranked Sid Martin Biotech as the top technology incubator earlier this year.

In 2007, Sid Martin Biotech was first runner-up for NBIA’s Incubator of the Year award.

Built in 1995, UF Sid Martin Biotech is one of the U.S.’s first bio-business incubators. The 40,000-square-foot bioscience complex is located at Progress Corporate Park in Alachua. The incubator’s companies and graduates have attracted more than $1 billion in equity investment, contracts, grants, and merger and acquisition activity.

University of Florida News Desk Writer Nathalie McCrate contributed to this story.

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NEWBERRY – Wendy Kinser is keeping busy writing grant proposals for the City of Newberry, and she has several in the works that dovetail with current community ventures.

“There’s a lot out there, and it’s about finding money that will help the commission,” Kinser said, referring to the Newberry City Commission.

The City of Newberry has applied for a variety of grants, one which deals with tourist product development to bring in visitors from out of town.

The grant program is an effort between the Alachua County Tourist Development Council and the Business Convention Bureau.

The county’s competitive grant program can increase tourism by drawing in a community-based or heritage-based attraction or organization to bring in new events or products.

The city is applying for a Capital Construction Fund grant under this program. If the city is successful, the money will be used to renovate or enhance a facility directly targeted for growing tourism in the county.

The city can apply for up for $25,000 and has requested to use the funds to assist Nations Park in its construction improvements to make renovations to the facility to make it more comfortable for spectators to enjoy the event, Kinser said.

Kinser has also set aim on an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which is offered through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The city would use the amount of some $8,000 for “Project Kid Print” in partnership with Newberry High School’s Academy of Criminal Justice.

The funding will enable the school to obtain electronic fingerprint scanner equipment so that youngsters can print out a card with their fingerprints and pictures for parents to keep at home.

If the city receives the grant, the funds will allow for hands on experience for criminal justice students in administering the fingerprinting process, and to enhance public education through developing brochures and dialogues between students and their parents about personal safety.

The city is also looking for funding through the Historic Preservation Grants Program, and has applied as a certified local government for the maximum amount of $50,000.

This level of funding would about be equal to the city’s preservation plan for the Triangle Park area, specifically the old electric plant and jail.

“There’s a lot of history to those buildings…but we need to renovate them so that they can stay part of Newberry’s history,” Kinser said.

The city is looking to preserve the original equipment still inside the historic power plant, which could at a future point transition into a museum.

The current Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) alternative transportation program that will install a new system of sidewalks across Newberry can be incorporated with the preservation plans as well. This could result in connecting the historic land with Triangle Park area by putting in a crosswalk to the plant and connecting sidewalks and bike paths.

“If we can get this money and do some planning for that area and look at it as a whole, those buildings can be kept in a state where they can be used,” Kinser said.

Kinser said that grant applications can require applicant matching funds in the amount of the grant applied for, but if the municipality does not have the funds there is an application process to waive the match requirement.

The match requirement waiver may allow the city to apply for a fourth grant of up to $700,000 through the State of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The grant would provide funding for repairs and maintenance for water and sewer on the east side of State Road 45, between southwest 15th Ave. and southwest 30th Ave., just south of the Nations Park site.

“Three different businesses are planning to come in and provide jobs just between the construction,” Kinser said. “It’s just a matter of needing assistance to make that happen.”

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NEWBERRY – The Easton Foundations Archery Center’s local youth archery program is drawer closer to earning its designation as a Community Olympic Development Program (CODP) from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

Five department officials from the committee have already signed off. Just one more signature is needed, and Easton Newberry Sport Complex’s archery program will be part of a direct route for athletes to the archery Olympic training center just outside San Diego, said Doug Engh, national outreach director for Easton Foundations.

There are only about 10 archery CODP sites nationally, and to become one, the complex has undergone years of preparation and staff training following USOC guidelines and even earned an endorsement from archery’s national governing body, USA Archery.

The program’s preparation has been focused around becoming a funnel for the junior Olympics. Lesson plans are being worked under USA Archery standards, and there have been discussions regarding athletes’ transportation and understanding the USOC high performance system.

“We are ready to unveil the banners,” Engh said, who works with head coach Robert Turner to make the Olympian concept a reality at the complex.

The staff is currently looking at whether the certification will change the archery program’s class structure and curriculum, Turner said.

The weekly classes scale five skill levels from beginner to advanced.

“There has been a lot of success coming from our structure,” Turner said.

Just last Friday at the National Target Championships in Ohio, one of the program’s students came away with a gold medal.

The CODP certification may mean that the complex’s program could be changed to more resemble USA Archery’s national elite program, Junior Dream Team. Two local graduate archers are already in this traveling program.

The idea behind streamlining the archery program is not to weed out players who won’t reach Olympic caliber, but to have the option available for the community’s youth.

“That’s why the designation has come our way,” Turner said            

“We have already shown that we have a great series of classes and have produced champions.

This year, about 60 state champions came from the local archery program, and last year there were about 45.

“We are so proud of what our archers have done, and we look forward to being more formalized under the CODP,” Turner said.

There will be an unveiling and rebranding ceremony for the complex in August if all goes well, and invites will include committee members, national coaches and some gold medalists, Engh said.

“And the logo does include the Olympic rings,” Engh said.

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W - Sence - DSCF8136 copyJohn Spence reads over 100 business books each year to help him teach people how to be effective managers and employees in their companies.

ALACHUA – Even though he's done it countless times, he still gets nervous when he has to speak in front of a crowd.

John Spence, 49, from Newberry, has been called a motivational speaker, but he prefers the term informational speaker. From his office in the city of Alachua, he runs a business that takes him to speak in front of employees of multinational companies and local businesses alike, lecturing them on teamwork, leadership, embracing change and creating a "culture of winning." He speaks to groups of many sizes, from large crowds, to small teams and mentors individual business owners.

"I'm sort of an introvert," Spence said. "I don't really like crowds, but I do like helping people."

He still gets emails from clients he spoke to over six years ago, thanking him and his company, Flycaster & Company, for saving their business.

When he was in his early 30s, John Spence worked for a consulting company called Sales Force Systems International. He was set to be the CEO, but things didn't work out that way.

Sales Force Systems International gives sales training and consulting to businesses all over the world. In order to prepare himself as a CEO, Spence began traveling with the instructors to places like China, Germany and Japan, watching them give classes to a corporate audience. He mainly sat in the back, but eventually, the instructors asked him to help teach. He was so good at it, the current CEO decided to make him an instructor instead of a successor. Spence was unhappy with the decision at first.

"I fought it for a while," he said. "I had no desire to be a speaker."

Two things changed his mind, Spence said. The first instance was when a client in New Zealand sent him to lecture employees of giant corporations. "That is when I learned I have enough information that I could truly help these big businesses with multibillion dollar deals." The second was when he started helping the Florida Recreation and Park Association train people to direct parks and recreation departments across the state. "That's when I realized I was truly helping people."

Soon, he found a passion for the work, spending nearly three years at that company, before going independent in 1994. Fortune 500 companies and Alachua-based businesses such as Dragonfly Sushi in Gainesville and the biomedical company InterMed have called Spence in for advice on how to manage their businesses.

"What makes me good at doing this is that I'm good at seeing patterns," he said. He looks for the things that have worked for companies in the past, and finds ways to apply them, he said.

Spence is an avid reader, consuming anywhere from 100 to 120 business books per year. "I'm a voracious collector of information," he said. He credits his ability to take in massive amounts of information and learn lessons from what he reads as a driving factor in his success, which includes being named one of the 100 "Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior 2013" by Trust Across America, which started in 2008 to "help enhance trustworthy behavior in organizations," according to its website.

The most rewarding thing for Spence is speaking to a crowd, knowing that their company will apply his ideas to improve their business, though from time to time upper management can sometimes be stubborn and refuse to acknowledge a problem, he said. It's all worth it for him when he gets emails from grateful clients, he added.

"It's nice to get paid, but there's no amount of money in the world that's worth somebody saying 'you saved my business'."

John Spence chose to base himself in Alachua County because he wanted the best of both rural and urban living, being able to drive home from Alachua to Newberry and see cows and fields, while also being able to visit museums in Gainesville. Even though he spends a good amount of time in his Alachua office answering calls from Shanghai and India and writing books, he also gets to go to faraway places like New Zealand, where he took a week off between lectures to go fly-fishing with his wife.    

"It's a way for us to enjoy seeing the world and get paid to do it."

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W- Alachua - Babe Ruth World SeriesALACHUA – The city of Alachua is gearing up for a full week of softball frenzy. From Aug. 1 to Aug. 6, the Santa Fe Babe Ruth Softball organization will host the Babe Ruth Softball 12U World Series in Alachua. Hundreds of girls from around the country will be at the city’s Hal Brady Recreation Complex to compete for the title.

Regional winners, 12 years-old and under, are also coming from towns and cities in New England, the Middle Atlantic, Ohio Valley, Southeast, Southwest, Midwest Plains, Pacific Northwest and Pacific Southwest to join the host team, the host team’s state champions and about 10 World Series qualifiers.

Tournament players are from New Jersey, California, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Florida.

“This year we are projected to host 24 teams,” said Damon Messina, assistant recreation director for the City of Alachua.

The Babe Ruth World Series 2013 will kick off with an evening opening ceremony. The event will feature the parade of teams followed by an introduction of the teams and fireworks, said Doug Robinson, Florida softball commissioner for Babe Ruth.

All games will be played on the World Series field and three softball fields.

The championship game will be played Aug. 6.

Robinson said the World Series website lists the weeklong itinerary, the list of teams and game schedule.

“We are expecting about 1,000 to 2,000 people each day,” said Messina.

The funds needed for the tournament were donated by the City of Alachua, Gainesville Sports Commission and others, Robinson said.

Ticket prices for adults are $8 for one day and $32 for the tournament. Children 12-years-old and under tickets are $12 for one day and $24 for the tournament.

Parking is free.

General ballpark concession stands will open along with other vendors offering ice cream and snow cones.

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